Asee peer logo

Taking a Bandsaw to First Grade: Transforming Elementary School Through Hands-on STEAM Education

Download Paper |


2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Pre-college Engineering Education Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Madhurima Das NuVu Studio

visit author page

Madhurima Das graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2018 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Since then, she has been working as a Design and Technology Fellow for NuVu Studio teaching design and engineering to K-12 students, with a focus on elementary education. She is interested in the intersections of design, engineering, and art and the impact of hands-on learning. She will be returning to MIT in Fall 2020 to begin her graduate studies in Mechanical Engineering.

visit author page

Download Paper |


It is well recognized that the world needs interdisciplinary problem solvers and creative thinkers to address the problems of the future. Training in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) is crucial for understanding the complexity of the world around us and for identifying and tackling critical issues ranging from climate change to gender inequities. To that end, many programs have been launched all around the world to expose students to STEAM fields and to encourage them to pursue STEAM careers. One particularly effective approach is through hands-on learning and “making,” since children often have a natural affinity for tinkering and learn well through active involvement in meaningful activities [1]. Hands-on, project-based learning has been shown to get more students engaged with STEAM and help them learn key skills for the future [2]. However, most STEAM education programs target students in upper-middle or high school [3]. Bustamante et. al write, “Since engineering education has traditionally not been part of the general K–12 education experience (i.e., the beginning of primary school (age 5) through the end of secondary school (age 18)), early childhood educators have minimal background in engineering pedagogy, and engineering education has been largely absent from purposeful coverage in early childhood” [4]. If students are nurtured at earlier ages to love thinking critically, solving problems, and building, they may be more inclined to continue their education in STEAM fields. Exposing elementary school children to STEAM curriculum is key in instilling in them an early love of learning and problem-solving. This is often overlooked in our current educational system and should be addressed to help develop excellent future STEAM professionals.

This paper explores the idea of introducing hands-on learning to younger kids and discusses field experience of implementing project-based STEAM curriculum with elementary school students from age 6-12. It includes examples of curriculum, discusses case studies of specific student work, and analyzes engagement level with various projects with attention to the value of problem solving and real-world applications to classwork. This paper also includes observations on student skill-building, both in terms of technical skills and students’ communication, and data on student self-assessment of skills. The paper makes recommendations for future research and investigation and proposes methods for implementing similar coursework at other elementary schools.

Das, M. (2020, June), Taking a Bandsaw to First Grade: Transforming Elementary School Through Hands-on STEAM Education Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35266

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2020 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015